Kid Friendly? - Pretty little flowers and edible seeds
Garden friendly? - The flowers are pretty, small globes of flowers on long stem. The leaves have a nice minty smell when crushed. Not a showy flower, but very interesting looking. They can attract some of the smaller pollinators with their smaller blooms, although they will also self-pollinate. The flowers will be purple or white, although I've only seen purple in my area.
Look alike's? - There is more than one plant with the name 'chia.' The other chia is known as Salvia Hispanica. This has larger seeds and stems, although it, too, is edible. Commercially purchased chia, and those old 'chia pets,' are both Salvia Hispanica rather than Salvia Columbariae (interesting information on Salvia Hispanica).
Bloomed in: March 2013, with a late snow and early heat. By mid-April, I found some with a few blooms still on, but it looked like they were the last.
Walking in my garden a few couple weeks ago, a friend points out a new flower that I hadn't seen before, and lo and behold, it's chia! We had 2 little chia plants pop up between some stones and among the shaded area where I have some piled wood. Compared to the sizes I've seen in pictures, these are probably struggling some, but still - I've got native chia!
Salvia Columbariae is our native Sonoran Desert chia. It's an annual member of the mint family, so if you want more you'll have to save a few of those seeds instead of eating them. The leaves have a nice minty smell, though, so they're worth harvesting along with the seeds.
|Very few leaves, so I'd harvest only when seeds have matured|
I thought for the longest time that this was the same type of chia that you'd find at the store, but it's not. That's Salvia Hispanica, with bigger seeds, and that sucker is native to Mexico so you're not as likely to see that pop up in your yard. You can eat the seeds of both, although our native chia is much smaller.
Chia seeds also store for quite a long time, 2-4 years in ideal conditions (cool, dry, and dark). They are even being recommended as a good emergency food ration for some home emergency kits. You need to make sure to keep the seeds dry if you are going to store them, however, as I understand they can be susceptible to the growth of things like mold if they contain too much moisture.
Personally, I'm going to be spreading around the seeds of more native chia and thinking about planting some Salvia Hispanica, too. Why not, right? See what comes up in the yard and eat it. A good philosophy. ^_^
I'd just let my two chia reseed to get me started, but sadly, I won't be getting any more chia from the ones in my yard. Some little critters - I'm thinking rabbits - ate the heads off of them before they reseeded. But at least I know they can grow here now!
Information about these lovely little plants:
On Salvia Hispanica specifically - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvia_hispanica